It has been estimated that at least one in three adults in America have high blood pressure. This is significant because elevated blood pressure levels, also known as hypertension, can lead to stroke and heart disease if they aren’t kept under control. Blood pressure testing checks how much bloods can pass through your blood vessels and how narrow your arteries are. Serious problems arise when the arteries are narrow and pressure builds up.
Here is some information about what causes high blood pressure, how to know if you have high blood pressure, and natural ways to keep your blood pressure under control.
What Causes High Blood Pressure
Genetics play a role in blood pressure, as you may have inherited a genetic abnormality from your parents that cause you to have high blood pressure. Unhealthy lifestyle choices can also cause you to have high blood pressure, such as being inactive and overweight. Certain medical conditions can also cause your blood pressure to skyrocket, including kidney disease, alcohol and drug abuse, thyroid issues, and sleep apnea. Blood pressure also tends to become higher due to stress, smoking cigarettes, and with the natural process of aging.
High blood pressure itself rarely causes symptoms that are noticeable, which means that many people are living with hypertension and don’t even realize it. Once symptoms arise, the condition has often worsened to a severe stage. At that point, a person may experience shortness of breath, headaches, chest pain, nosebleeds, and dizziness. If high blood pressure isn’t kept under control, it can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney malfunction, a brain aneurysm, and perhaps even dementia due to a lack of blood flow to the brain.
Blood Pressure Readings
Since hypertension is often asymptomatic, especially in the early stages, it is important to get your blood pressure checked periodically. There are two measurements to remember when it comes to blood pressure testing. The systolic pressure is the first number and tells you how much pressure is in your arteries when your heart is beating and pumping. The diastolic pressure is the second number that measures arterial pressure between heart beats. The ideal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80. Numbers above this are categorized as elevated, stage one hypertension, stage two hypertension, and a hypertensive crisis for readings over 180/120. Numbers far lower than normal can be a cause for concern too.
How to Treat High Blood Pressure
There are numerous medications that people take for high blood pressure, including diuretics that help the kidneys remove sodium from the body, beta-blockers to reduce blood flow through the arteries, and calcium channel blockers to prevent calcium from entering the heart muscles. However, there are also lots of things that you can do to help control your blood pressure that have nothing to do with popping a pill.
Diets low in sodium and rich in lean proteins, like fish, as well as fruits and vegetables, are a great start for preventing hypertension. Getting 30 minutes of exercise each day, losing weight if you are overweight, and keeping stress levels low are also top recommendations. People with high blood pressure should rethink their dinner plates and consider eating less red meat and more fresh produce each day. It’s also a smart idea to reduce your sugar and salt intake from processed foods and to perhaps buy your own blood pressure tester to use at home between doctor visits for more regular monitoring. What helps the body be healthier is also what helps control blood pressure, so get yours tested if it’s been awhile so that you can make positive lifestyle changes as early as possible.